Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004) was a leading member of the St Ives School of artists and greatly contributed to the development of Modernist British painting in the mid to late 20th century.
A painter, printmaker and draughtsman, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, known as Willie, was born in St Andrews in 1912. She studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1932-37 where she became interested in abstract art. As a result of a travel scholarship, Barns-Graham moved to St Ives in 1940 and met Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo who had an impact on her life and work. A visit to Switzerland in 1948 inspired a series of drawings and paintings of glaciers and from this time onwards, she produced abstract compositions using geometric forms but with their origins in nature.
Despite being part of the original St Ives group, for some 25 years from the late 1950s, her work was only rarely exhibited. The Tate Gallery’s St Ives exhibition in 1985 gave her the confidence to work with renewed vigour and originality and in the latter half of the 1990s, she produced a series of paintings of bold, strong, brush strokes and saturated colours. She worked right up to her death in 2004 at the age of 91.
For our Spin event, we will be meeting Rob Airey, Director of The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust which was established by the artist in 1987. The Trust looks after a significant collection of paintings, drawings and prints and promotes her work by organising exhibitions, lending works and supporting artists. They also look after her archive of books, photography, drawings and ceramics.